Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college students’ experiences of the relationship between private off-campus residences and academic performance: a case of Majuba TVET College.
Mtshali, Josephine Makhosazane.
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Capacitating and developing public Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges has been a major focus of the South African Department of Higher Education and Training in recent years. The key purpose of these colleges is to prepare graduates for the field of work by capacitating them to be highly productive in strategic areas of the economy. Despite the DHET’s efforts, academic performance at TVET colleges remains a challenge for students, lecturers, college management, and policy makers as well as national leadership. The international and local literature confirms that the factors that negatively influence academic performance include financial challenges, socio-geographical factors and a lack of decent student housing. Due to the high numbers of students attending TVET Colleges and the deterioration of on-campus residences, private off-campus residences have dominated student housing since 2012. Recent statistics reveal that 74% of TVET students live in private off-campus residences located in poor communities surrounding the campuses. This study examined the relationship between TVET students’ experiences of living in such private off-campus residences and their academic performance. Drawing on the theory of Cultural Capital, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Effective Teaching and Learning and Housing Productivity theory, it aimed to establish the participants’ ontological, epistemological and axiological understanding of the factors affecting their participation and academic performance against the background of their experiences of living in private off-campus residences. A qualitative, interpretive research design informed the case study’s approach that focused on participants who attended the Centre for People Development at Majuba TVET College in Madadeni, KwaZulu-Natal. Purposive sampling was employed to select 20 participants and data was produced by means of in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and document analysis. The data was analyzed according to themes derived from the theoretical framework. The study found that the participants who lived in private offcampus residences experience serious challenges that negatively affect their academic performance and cause some to drop out of college. These include financial problems that they entered college with owing to their poor socio-economic backgrounds. This was further exacerbated by delayed payment of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) grants. Social challenges, learning challenges, a lack of facilities at private off-campus residences, lack of college support and inadequate parental involvement as a result of living far from home also contributed to the participants’ poor academic performance. The study concludes that TVET Colleges, the DHET and other stakeholders need to review current policies and practices relating to student residences with the aim of improving the quality of the lives of students who live in private off-campus residences. In turn, this will improve their academic performance, to the benefit of themselves, their communities and society at large.